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Video shows inmates setting fires in troubled Phoenix-area prison

PHOENIX – Newly published surveillance video from a troubled Arizona prison shows inmates setting multiple small fires inside a maximum security unit while correctional officers do little more than stand and watch.

ABC15, which posted the 80-minute video Wednesday, said the footage was from Nov. 8, 2018, in the Rast Unit of the Lewis Prison in Buckeye.

Inmates both inside and outside cells can be seen stoking flames burning in the walkway.

In one instance, a prisoner with his hands cuffed behind him is handed an orange garment from somebody inside a cell. The cuffed prisoner drops the garment onto an existing fire on a railing as a corrections officer stands just feet away.

According to ABC15, prison officials told staff to let the inmates get it out of their system. They also allegedly wanted to avoid calling a critical incident, which would have to be reported to the Arizona Department of Corrections.

After ABC15 contacted the state about the incident, Warden Berry Larsen resigned and Deputy Warden Jeff Rode retired Wednesday, the TV station reported.

ABC15 said Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan has ordered a review into the incident, the latest safety scandal at the troubled prison.

Lewis Prison has been the center of controversy since ABC15 published a series of leaked surveillance videos in April showing prisoners exiting cells with defective locks and assaulting correctional officers and other inmates.

Last month, the Department of Corrections relocated 716 inmates from the Lewis Prison’s Morey Unit to other state prisons, giving the department a chance to plan and implement a long-term solution for the lock issue.

The department said inmates had tampered with locking mechanisms to keep the cells from being properly secured.

Doors were padlocked in response, a violation of state fire codes, but the state fire marshal temporarily allowed the padlocks.

Gov. Doug Ducey authorized a third-party, independent investigation of the Department of Corrections as well as a state probe by a team of law enforcement officials.

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